SIOUX CITY, Iowa — A familiar connection sent top-ranked Morningside to the NAIA championship game.
Trent Solsma hit Connor Niles on a 25-yard touchdown pass in overtime to give the Mustangs a 34-28 semifinal win over two-time defending national champion Saint Francis (Ind.) on a snowy Saturday afternoon.
Morningside will play Benedictine of Kansas, a 43-21 winner over Kansas Wesleyan, in the NAIA title game Dec. 15 at Daytona Beach, Florida.
Morningside, which lost to Saint Francis the past two years in the playoffs, raced to a 14-0 lead in the first three minutes on two touchdown passes from Solsma.
Morningside led 28-14 at halftime, but the Mustangs, who averaged 55.4 points a game entering Saturday, failed to score on any of their eight second-half possessions, and the game went to overtime.
After Saint Francis missed a 41-yard field goal try, Solsma hit Niles in the end zone for the game-winner.
Solsma threw for 306 yards and four TDs, while Niles had 11 catches for 161 yards and three scores. For the season, Solsma has thrown for more than 5,000 yards, while Niles has 146 catches for nearly 2,500 yards.
Omaha Burke graduate Arnijae Ponder added 136 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.
Saint Francis, Ind. (10-3)……..7 7 7 7 0—28
At Morningside (14-0)………..21 7 0 0 6—34
M: Connor Niles 50 pass from Trent Solsma (Jared Amundson kick)
M: Addison Ross 30 pass from Solsma (Amundson kick)
SF: P.J. Dean 13 pass from Matt Crable (Gavin Gardner kick)
M: Arnijae Ponder 17 run (Amundson kick)
SF: Will Chrisman 14 pass rom Crable (Gardner kick)
M: Niles 4 pass from Solsma (Amundson kick)
SF: Dylan Hunley 29 pass from Crable (Gardner kick)
SF: Dean 1 run (Gardner kick)
M: Niles 25 pass from Solsma